WASHINGTON – A trio of government agencies will share oversight responsibilities for the production process of cell-based food for human consumption, according to a March 7 announcement from the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). An agreement between the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services spells out each agency’s role in regulating food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

According to a formal agreement between the FSIS and FDA states that the two agencies will work together to oversee the process of developing and commercializing cell-cultured products and enforcing regulations focused on food safety and labeling of the products. According to the formal agreement, the FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation.

“A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage,” according to a statement from the USDA and FDA. “FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”

“Consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labeled products,” said Mindy Brashears USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety. “We look forward to continued collaboration with FDA and our stakeholders to safely regulate these new products and ensure parity in labeling.”

FDA’s recently appointed Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, said, “We recognize that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labeling of these cell-cultured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation. Collaboration between USDA and FDA will allow us to draw upon the unique expertise of each agency in addressing the many important technical and regulatory considerations that can arise with the development of animal cell-cultured food products for human consumption.”

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) lauded the team approach to regulating this new generation of products as they enter commerce. NTF President Joel Brandenberger said joint oversight is the logical approach.

“Today’s formal agreement appears to address the concerns expressed by NTF members and other meat and poultry producers,” he said. “NTF applauds the teams at USDA and FDA for their commitment to a joint process, and we look forward to working with both agencies moving forward. This is just the first of many steps in developing a regulatory framework, and NTF will continue to be an active voice in this discussion.”

The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) also endorsed the agency’s agreement, saying it affirms the association’s position in comments and testimony to the agencies.

“The framework announced today will ensure cell-based meat and poultry products are wholesome, safe for consumption, and properly labeled,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts.  “We support a fair and competitive marketplace that lets consumers decide what food products make sense for them and their families, and this agreement will help achieve these goals by establishing the level playing field necessary to ensure consumer confidence.”